As I wrote about this morning, the Baltimore Orioles and Adam Jones are close to announcing a contract extension that will make the center fielder the highest paid player in team history. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal will be worth $85 million over six years.
The deal covers his final year of arbitration eligibility and then the first five years of his free agency eligibility. The terms are somewhere between what I would’ve been comfortable offering Jones ($78 million over six years) and some of the more ambitious projections that compared Jones to Matt Kemp.
If we break down the contract to assume that Jones will get paid $10 million for his final arbitration year, and then $15 million in the subsequent seasons, we see that the Orioles judge Jones to be a three wins above replacement player, which is likely a conservative judgment of his true talent. Considering his last two seasons and the start of this year, he’s likely closer to a four WAR player. If you rate his defense more highly than UZR does, then it’s a very good team deal.
However, that’s what should happen when a team decides to extend a player at this point of a season that’s shaping up to be a career year. The risk for the Orioles is that his first quarter of 2012 isn’t as indicative of his true talent as the previous two seasons when Jones hovered below a total fWAR of three. The risk for Jones is that he’s become Matt Kemp and is now turning down what would’ve been a larger pay day ahead of the 2014 season.
It’s probably worth noting that the deal sets up something of a template for the center fielders expected to hit the free agent market this off season in Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, B.J. Upton and Shane Victorino.